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In the last month or so, there’s been a rash of restaurant openings where the food is creative yet downright comfortable--i.e., something you actually want to eat, as opposed to nouvelle cuisine that is made to be experienced. Unpretentious, delicious and satisfying, these spots must be visited pronto.

Catch and Release

It’s a casual seafood restaurant that’s got everything you want and more, from an inviting raw bar to creative entrees like bucatini, Dungeness crab, ramp brown butter puree, chilies and brioche bread crumbs ($19).

13488 Maxella Ave., Marina Del Rey; 310-893-6100 or


At this loftlike Santa Monica restaurant run by an award-winning chef, don’t miss the Vietnamese Sunbathing Prawns ($19), a plate full of the chilled crustaceans coated in Fresno chiles, garlic and Vietnamese hot sauce. Basically, it’s a Southeast Asian version of peel-and-eat shrimp--enjoy it with a side of fragrant jasmine rice ($3).

1314 Seventh St., Santa Monica; 310-393-6699 or

Gianni Exposito

Le Petit Paris

Go to this sprawling downtown brasserie for the glam interiors: plump velvet sofas under twinkling chandeliers hung from soaring ceilings. Stay for the international menu, like the standout pizza with house-made artichoke-truffle cream, Comté and thinly sliced truffles ($38).

418-420 S. Spring St.; 213-217-4445 or

Hatchet Hall

At this meat-centric ode to Southern food, order the wood-grilled pork chop, which comes with a juicy blackened peach and is coated in a fig-and-maple brown-butter drizzle.

12517 W. Washington Blvd.; 310-391-4222 or


This lunch-only spot has seven seats at a counter, so text your order ahead for pickup. The chef, an alum of fancy places like the French Laundry, turns out mix-and-match Vietnamese bowls. Don’t miss the Pork Longganisa, in which sweet-and-spicy sausage is mixed with pickled vegetables and bread crumbs and served atop garlic-fried rice ($8.75).

419 W. Seventh St.;

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